Werribee Open Range Zoo, on the Werribee River, is part of the Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary trilogy.
Its focus is on Australian, African, Asian and North American animals living in extensive grounds. Grasslands and savannah resemble the natural habitats of animals which roam freely, enabling visitors to enjoy a memorable wildlife experience.
Hour-long safari tours starting at the Meerkat Bistro are available. They take in Australian animals first, and then enter the savannah where hippos are the first animals you will see.
The zoo's newest experience, Kubu River Hippos, will transport visitors to a wild African wetland where they can get up close and personal with one of the world's largest land mammals. What makes this experience so special is that all that separates the enclosure is a low wooden fence.
Werribee is describing the experience as the zoo's biggest new attraction ever they spent $6.5 million on it. Spanning three hectares, its features include deep swimming holes, shallow pools, sandy beaches and grassy meadows. It houses Werribee's four resident hippos.
Visitors can stroll 120 metres of boardwalks and come eye-to-eye with the animals from a partly-submerged barge, the Kubu Queen. After exploring on foot, the safari bus takes visitors across the Kubu River ford in one of the world's only drive-through hippo experiences.
The grasslands are home to zebra, waterbuck, giraffe, ostrich, rhinoceros, camel and oryx. You may even spot cheetah and monkeys at play.
An African village is entertaining and educational. It has a mock scenario of a ranger tracking lions, complete with an interactive soundscape walk and simulated lion sounds.
There are two trails for visitors to follow. The Pula Reserve Trail takes 40 minutes and focuses on African animals. The 30-minute Volcanic Plains Walk focuses on Australian animals.
Trained tour guides give informed interpretation of animals, their features and behaviour.
Specialty tours including open vehicle and canoe safaris, as well as close encounters with lions and rhinos, are available. There are also Slumber Safaris. All are extremely popular and bookings are highly recommended.
There are plenty of shady picnic areas, as well as a bistro, and the zoo is open every day from 9am.
The zoo has an animal sponsorship and adoption program which has proved to be a popular gift to those who have everything.